"You have FOMO?! What's that?" At least, that's what I thought in my head the first time I heard someone use that term casually in conversation. I laughed nervously, nodding my head in agreement.
Since I am used to not knowing when an inappropriate joke is cracked or not picking up on the "double meaning" of a word, I pretended to know what she was talking about, assuming it was some sort of inappropriate reference. I "Googled" it when I got home to find out what it stood for -- Fear of Missing Out, in case any one else doesn't know the lingo either -- and I immediately diagnosed myself with this "syndrome."
I am convinced that all people experience FOMO at some point or another, but it seems like college students are particularly affected. The overwhelming feeling comes over you when making decisions we are faced with all the time, every day. Whether or not to go to a party and be social, or stay home and watch movies? Whether or not to join a club or make time for reading?
As a first semester college freshman, FOMO seems to be everywhere, at a whole new level. It's no longer just about the fear of missing out on social events; it's about the fear of missing out on experiences that could help define your future or shape your course of study. Should I go to this possibly inspiring lecture or take a much-needed nap? Which club meeting should I attend? Should I take this weekend trip with my friend or stay on campus for the info sessions on my potential major?
It spreads like the plague from one person to another, and from one day to the next, and we try so hard to fight it. It is something we all struggle with, whether we admit it or not, at some point in our day when making decisions, even really small ones.
However, funny acronym aside, I have been thinking a lot about this idea of living constantly with the past and future in mind. Why is that we are so scared of missing out or of not choosing correctly? We base our decisions on past experiences and we make choices based on what we think is best for our futures. It makes sense that we want to take advantage of everything college has to offer. In fact, we are constantly encouraged to do so, but I often worry that in focusing so closely on the choices with the end goal in mind, we are missing out on the process, on the journey. After all, isn't that what college is all about?
As I look for projects to work on and clubs to be a part of, decide whether or not attend a guest speaker or event on campus, or how to spend my time, I realize that what I am struggling with is more than what the acronym suggests at its surface. It's about a feeling of wanting to find something that might spark my interest or provide me with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It's about wanting to find something to be a part of and searching for the next best thing. It's about searching for that thing will inspire me and help guide me. So I have come to the conclusion that while FOMO still is very much about the struggle to find that balance, it also addresses our desire to seek belonging and direction.
Sometimes, though, I wonder how I can find happiness with just being. I think about how my life would be different if I could find a way to allow those things to find me. It is time to fight it; to push that nagging feeling away and instead feel fulfilled by the present. If not, it is quite possible that in searching for the best we will miss out on the better.
How will you tackle your FOMO?